NSW announces record growth in renewables, but no plan to join leading states

NSW has more than doubled its renewable energy generation over the past six years and now enjoys the highest proportion of direct renewable energy jobs in Australia, according to its just released NSW Renewable Energy Action Plan annual report. However, there’s currently no plan to go beyond a 20 per cent renewables target by 2020.

The annual report for 2016 notes a range of wins for the state, including getting to 14 per cent renewables in 2015 (including hydro) and leading the country on large-scale solar, with 210 megawatts of capacity that has created 580 construction jobs and $600 million in investment. Another five large-scale solar projects are planned.

Other achievements of note include 350,000 solar households (and 91 per cent community support for renewables), 3200MW of development approval for renewable energy and another 5000MW in planning phase. The state also announced it had received the lion’s share of funding from federal renewable bodies, including 40 per cent of Clean Energy Finance Corporation funding and 50 per cent of ARENA funding.

Of the 24 actions that form the three-year-old plan, 17 have now been completed.

“We’re making great progress on the Renewable Energy Action Plan, which positions NSW to increase energy from renewables at the least cost to customers while also helping to boost our energy security,” energy minister Don Harwin said.

Renewables saved NSW from blackout

In contrast to the federal rhetoric around renewables and blackouts, Mr Harwin said solar had protected the state through the heatwave in February.

“At the time of peak demand renewables provided 27 per cent of NSW’s generation,” he said. “We needed recent investment in renewables to meet this peak.”

On the way to net zero

NSW Renewable Energy Advocate Amy Kean said the renewable energy plan supported the government’s “aspirational target of net zero emissions by 2050”.

“We’ll do this by diversifying our energy mix, empowering energy consumers and giving the private sector more confidence to invest in renewables and storage technology to achieve an orderly transition,” Ms Kean said.

However, that target may remain aspirational without policies to encourage a quick ratcheting up of renewable energy development.

States like Victoria, South Australia and the ACT have enacted their own renewable energy targets in the face of the weak national target in order to create a competitive advantage and attract additional development.

Mr Harwin said the state was continuing to support “a single, national renewable energy target”.

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